TOEFL & IELTS skills - Notetaking
Hi. Welcome back to www.engvid.com. I'm Adam. Today's lesson is going to be for those of
you who are going to take the TOEFL or IELTS test. So just so you understand, I will be
speaking at a more natural speed. It will be a little bit faster than some of you are
used to. But listen anyway, and watch. It's very good for listening practice, and it will
be helpful regardless. So today's lesson is specifically about note taking skills. I'm
going to concentrate on the TOEFL, but it is also very useful for the people taking
an IELTS test. Now, if you've seen my time management class for IELTS, you will realize
that in the listening section, it's very important to know how to take notes. You don't want
to waste time concentrating on spelling and writing full words while the recording is playing
because you have time at the end to transfer your answers. That's when you want to write
correctly spelled answers and everything. You want to just make sure during the listening
section that you write enough to know what the word is. We're going to get into that
a little bit later. What I want to concentrate on mostly, though, is the TOEFL test, okay?
Because in the TOEFL test, it is crucial that you know how to take notes. Why? You have
a listening section; you have a speaking section; you have a writing section, all of which have
a listening component. Remember; this is an integrated test. You're going to have to listen
in each one of these sections. Okay?
In the listening section, what many people don't realize who haven't taken a test yet:
You don't see anything. Okay? You don't see the questions as you're listening to the lectures
or whatever you're listening to. So it's very, very important that you take notes as you're
listening so that when the questions do come, you have the information in front of you,
you know how to answer it, okay?
In the speaking section, you may be given a short conversation to listen to and then
be given a question, and you have to speak your answer. But if you don't remember what
they spoke about, then, you can't answer the question properly.
In the writing section, you have — in Task 1, you have to compare a reading section with
a listening section. And then, you have to write an answer comparing the two. So if you
don't take notes during the listening component of Task 1, it's very difficult to write your
answer. Okay? So note taking skills — very important throughout the TOEFL test.
So first of all, before we look at how to do it, let's look at what you need to concentrate
on as you're listening. Okay? Now, another thing to remember before I even start: This
takes practice. This is a skill that you have to sharpen, that you have to practice with
every day before you go out to take your test.
Okay. Now, the first mistake people make is they think — they try to write down every
word they hear. Impossible. Okay? Unless you're a stenographer — that's a person who works
in court and writes down every word that the people in the courtroom are saying, lawyers,
judges, defendants, etc., witnesses — you cannot write every word. Don't try. You don't
need to write every word. You need to concentrate on the details that are important, on the
information that is important.
Now, what you need to focus on are the big, general ideas. You need to understand generally
what is being spoken about, what is the topic, what is the subject. For example, is it science?
Is it history? Is it arts? You need to understand the general ideas because they're not going
to ask you very, very specific questions, right? And if they do, they're going to give
you some information. They're going to give you something to listen to again. Or they're
going to give you a very specific word.
So, details. Do you need to concentrate on every little detail? No. You'll be writing
all the time, not listening. Stick to the big ideas. But — okay, sorry. Having said
that, technical words — if they give you some scientific word or some technological
word, do you need to know it? No. They will give it to you in the question. You will see
it in the question, and you'll remember, "Oh, yeah. This is the technical word." There will
be technical words that even native speakers have no idea how to write or what they mean
or what they are. You don't need to either. What you need to listen to is the explanation
of what the technical word refers to or means because the word itself, they will give you
Headings, divisions, lists: These are the most important things you're listening for.
For example, you're listening to a lecture in a university classroom, and the professor
says, "So today, we're going to look at three reasons why fracking is bad." "Fracking" — you
don't need to know. From a general idea — you will have an idea what "fracking" means. But
"fracking" spelling? You don't need to know. Specifically, the details of how fracking
works, you don't need to know. What you do need to listen to are the three reasons. So
he's dividing the lecture into three topics. Make sure that you create a heading for each
So the first reason is pollution. Write down "pollution". And then you can take notes under
it if you need to. The second reason is expense. Write down "expense" and whatever information
comes after that. The third reason — whatever. You get the gist, I think. By the way, I hope
you know this word, "gist". "Gist" is the general idea. That's what you're listening
for. If they're about the present a list, try to write down the list because this is
So in the listening section, don't sit there with your eyes closed and try to remember
everything you hear. You cannot do it. There will be quite a few questions for each listening
section. You need to make sure that you have the information on a piece of paper in front
of you. When you go to the TOEFL center, they will give you paper. They will give you a
pencil. That's what it is for: to take notes. Use it.
Next. In the speaking section, much shorter listening sections, but very important. What
are you listening for? You're listening for dates and times. For example, "Oh, yeah. Let's
meet next Tuesday." The "text Tuesday", you have to be careful; it's not "this Tuesday",
for example. Times, a.m., p.m. — you don't need specifically 5:14; you need to understand
afternoon, morning, evening, etc.
If people are making plans, make sure you understand what the plans are. Meet here,
do this with these people. That's the information you want to write down. If somebody agrees
or disagrees with something, write that down. If somebody makes an excuse — "Do you want
to come to my party next week?" "No, I can't. I have to take my mother shopping." Write
that down, "mother, shopping". You don't have to write, "He has to take his mother shopping."
No. Don't do that. "Mother, shopping" — done.
Okay. Which goes with this? Accept, reject. Somebody makes an invitation. Does the person
accept or reject? He accepts and goes. If he rejects, make sure you know what the excuse
is. Okay? Because they'll ask you for that.
Purpose. There's going to be a meeting. Okay. Meeting — not important. What is the meeting
about? Write that down. That is important. Or the reason — reason and excuses: similar,
but a bit different. Reason for doing something, excuse for not doing something. Okay? So this
is only the listening and speaking. Let's look at the writing and section, what you
Okay. So now, let's look at the writing section. What are you doing in the writing section?
Remember that you have a short reading passage. You're given a little bit of time. You could
already start taking your notes as you're reading. But for some people, the reading
takes some time. Concentrate on the reading. Get the idea. What are the supporting, what
are the attacking, what is their argument. What examples are they using? Then, when you're
doing your listening, you're listening for — first thing you're listening for: Are they
supporting or attacking the reading? Okay? Because the question is going to ask you how
are they supporting or attacking the reading? So this is what you have to pay attention
for. If they are supporting, what point are they making? If they are attacking, what are
the points they're making? Again, big points, major points as compared to the reading.
Also, if the listening uses any names, like a company name or a person's name as an example
of supporting or attacking, try to write down that name. This will get you a lot of points
with the graders if they can see that you wrote down the name and used it in your short
Examples. Any examples that they use to support or attack? Again, don't give me all the details,
but give me the general idea of the example, especially if the example was also used in
the reading. Okay? And then, use all of these in your little essay to show the differences.
So now you know what you're listening for. Now, the hard part is actually doing the note
taking, the writing things down. You're going to be learning how to use codes. Now, before
I go over some of these, it's very, very important that you understand that these are some examples
I'm giving you. You need to create your own codes that work for you. If I'm taking notes
on an essay — on the listening section, for example — I know what all these mean. These
are my codes. You might not know what this means, "w/". You may have to practice a little
while until you remember it. But make your own codes, something that you will remember
when it's time to use it for the listening section, the speaking section, the writing
So here's a little sample of codes. Some of these, you know from your texting on your
phone. You will never have to use LOL, OMG, BBF on the TOEFL, but good to know that they
I have a b; I have a 4 — b4. I have an L; I have an 8 — L8. Add an R — L8R. Okay?
Up — go up, increase, raise, grow. Down — go down, decrease, decelerate, slow down, whatever
you need. Anything that shows going down, anything that shows going up.
4 — why did he go to the store? For milk — 4 milk. Etc.
2 — could be "to", "too", or "two". Although very rarely will you have to actually worry
about numbers because that's details.
Times — five X as many. So there are five times as many people in that class as this
class. So five X people. That's it. Class A, B, 5X — that's it.
Minus, less. Plus, in addition. Up 2 — means maximum. Down 2 — minimum. Approximately
— this is my sign. It means not equal, but close to. So approximately. Greater than — A
is more than B. Less than. Equal. With something. Without something.
H2O. What is "H2O"? You dink it every day. Water. Any little code that you can use to
help you write things quickly and remember things quickly, especially things like this
— TOEFL for some reason loves science things. They love science lectures. They love science
articles. Be very comfortable with those because you're going to see a lot of them.
Now, the next thing we're going to look at is abbreviations, which are just as important
as the codes. And again, something that you're going to have to practice and work on, but
I'll give you a little bit of a sample to get you started.
Okay. So now we get into the area where it's really more up to you to create your own master
list and practice it and study it so on test day, you can use it and not have any problems.
We're looking at abbreviations. An "abbreviation" means taking a word and squeezing it, making
it shorter. So the abbreviation for abbreviation is "abbr." Okay? Abbreviation. The most important
thing to remember is that you must remember what "abbr." means. If I see "abbr." In any
document, I will automatically understand this means "abbreviation". Some of these are
very common. Everybody used them. Some of them, you will have to make your own, and
I'll show you how to do that as well.
So for example, you have to be careful sometimes. You have to make yourself little changes,
like with a dot. So "inc." if I have only "inc" without a dot, I understand "increase".
Okay? If I see "inc." with a dot, I understand "incorporate". Okay? Same with "co" without
a dot is "company"; "co." with a dot — "corporation". Or "cor." — depends how you want to do it.
Now, sometimes, you have some of them that look very similar, only one letter difference,
right? "App" for me means "application". "Appt" means "appointment". "Acct" means "account".
"Accm" means "accommodation". "Accp" means "accompany". "Act" — "active" or "action".
You also have the shortened version of Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms., and Dr. Okay?
Sometimes, you can use the slash. Everything, nothing. Something, somewhere, anywhere, etc.
Whatever — w/e. "Etc." means "and so on like that". "Ie." means "in other words", so you
can use another way of saying the same thing. "Eg." means "example". So if you hear, for
example, in the listening, you do "eg.", and then write the example. "n.b.", nota bene,
means "note well", means very important point. Keep that in mind. If somebody in the lecture
says "n.b." or "nota bene", make sure you write down what he or she says. President,
Make your own list. If you're not sure how to do it, the easiest way is take any word;
take out all the vowels. So you have the word "responsible". How are you going to write
it as an abbreviation? I'll just write "rsp", responsible. But I would remember that "rsp"
means "responsible". Or if you want to just put one — sorry. "Resp" — "resp" sounds
like " responsible". Okay? So remember it that way.
Another thing you can use — another way to remember these things and take notes is using
acronyms. Acronyms are basically the initials of something. Each letter stands for something.
B.A., Bachelor of Arts. B.Sc, I forgot to write down. "Bachelor of Science". B.Ed, Bachelor
of Education, and so on. Master of Arts. PhD. — doctorate or post-graduate.
IBM — International Business Machine, big company name. CIA — Central Intelligent Agency,
in the States. IRS — Internal Revenue Services, part of the tax company of the government.
a.m. — morning. p.m. — afternoon or evening. But notice here, "p.m." with dots and "PM"
without the dots or the dot is after. "p.m." — afternoon, evening. "PM" — "prime minister".
Okay? So all these little things have a huge impact. But once you master how to do this
— and believe me; it takes a lot of practice. Once you know how to do this, then you can
go into the TOEFL test; your listening section becomes much easier, speaking section, writing
section. Everything is much easier because you have the information in front of you when
it's time to answer the questions. Okay?
Now, we're just going to do one more thing. I'm going to show you an example. We're going
to take a complicated sentence, sort of. I'm going to reduce it to code, and you'll see
more or less how it's done. It's not easy, but let's look at it.
Okay. So now we're going to look at an example. Now, first of all, keep in mind you're seeing
this; you're not hearing it — two very different things. But I just wanted to give you an idea
of what I want you to practice doing, and you can of course do that on your own. Lots
of places to do it. I'll give you a couple examples. I'm going to redo the sentence,
and then I'm going to show you how this area means the same thing. Okay? You're not necessarily
going to have to write this much detail. You're not going to have to write down a whole sentence,
but just to show you how it works.
"With the advent of the information age, as well as widespread access to this information
via technological advances in communication, came a new threat for civil protection agencies
Now, if you're taking the TOEFL, you should know what everything means. It should be not
— "advent" means, like, think about "advance", something is progressing. "Tackle" means,
basically, "fight". "Threat", something that's dangerous to you or could be harmful to you.
But anything else, you really should know all these words if you're ready for the TOEFL.
So what did I do here? The advent of information. The increase in — or the going up, in this
case "advances" — information technology, communication. New threat for cops — civil
protection agencies, what are they? They're cops, police. Cops to fight.
Everything here in a short little thing like this, this takes you ten seconds to write.
Meanwhile, you can continue listening and go on to other things. Okay?
Now, again, I will say this a thousand times if I have to. You need to practice this. This
is not easy to do quickly. You need to do this and continue listening at the same time.
In the speaking and writing sections especially, you're listening for specific things that
may play into the question that's coming. Right? You can practice all these. Now, if
you know www.ted.com, it's a good website. There are lots of lectures. CNN also. You
can go get listening sections — you can listen to news or you can listen to lectures, but
they also have transcripts, okay? So you can practice your note taking skills, listen two,
three, four times — as many times as you need. Take notes. Then, look at the transcripts
and compare your notes to the transcripts. How close do you come? And believe me; the
more you do it, the better you'll get at it, just like anything else. It's a skill at the
end of the day. And it's a very important skill if you want to succeed on the TOEFL
Now, if you go to www.engvid.com, I'll give you a few more examples like this. I'll give
you some sentences like this, and you'll try to match them to the correct long sentence
and vice versa. So go to www.engvid.com for extra practice and questions. Also, check
out my new site, www.WriteToTop.com and subscribe to my channel on YouTube. And I'll see you